Questions tagged [fiction]

Fiction is a form of prose writing that deals with at least partly artificial or imagined events and characters. This tag should be used for any questions relating to fiction, including fiction formatting, techniques and publishing.

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78 votes
10 answers
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The Good, the Bad, and the Semicolon

I completed my novel and an editor friend graciously offered to assist me with formatting. As a former scientist, I am more familiar with technical or academic writing, so formatting fiction can be a ...
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74 votes
25 answers
28k views

The protagonist can't defeat the antagonist without the antagonist being stupid

What should I do if my story's plot is built around the antagonist being extremely strong, and by the end it's clear that the protagonist cannot possibly defeat the antagonist, unless the antagonist ...
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70 votes
8 answers
10k views

How to avoid turning dialogue into Q&A session?

I noticed a problem I have in my fictional writing. My dialogues quickly turn into interrogations. Here is an exaggerated example. "How did you do it?" he asked. "..." "Will ...
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  • 857
66 votes
17 answers
18k views

Avoiding racist tropes in fantasy

I'm interested in starting a pleasure project: a fantasy story, along the lines of a witch delivering a prophecy to a king about a dangerous and deceitful foe who will overthrow him, and the king ...
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56 votes
8 answers
32k views

"All of a sudden..." ?

I am writing a manuscript for a novel. It's my first attempt, and often I find myself wanting to write "suddenly" or "all of a sudden". I do this when I want the scene to change in an instant, or ...
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55 votes
22 answers
14k views

How do I avoid the "chosen hero" feeling?

In many works of genre-fiction (I'm talking mainly about fantasy and sci-fi, but others genres can apply), and across many forms of media, the main characters ends up being special in some ways. ...
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53 votes
15 answers
13k views

How to make the reader think that the *character's* logic is flawed instead of the author's?

Following up on my previous question, "How to make the villain's motives understandable if his logic is flawed?", how can I let the reader know that the lack of logic is on the character's side, ...
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51 votes
15 answers
30k views

Killing the protagonist - should it be done?

I am an aspiring author, but I have written several short 'test novels.' With each of those, it became increasingly clear how you have to develop the main character, the protagonist. After all, the ...
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48 votes
12 answers
18k views

'The Chosen One' paradox

In many books novels or other forms of fictional writing, the reader is introduced to a so called 'chosen one'. This character or being is of higher power or in general, of different nature than other ...
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  • 591
46 votes
6 answers
10k views

How to avoid mentioning the name of a character?

I am writing a short story which features a character known only as Old Man, but there is a part of the story where someone calls the Old Man by his name. Only once, and I was wondering if there was a ...
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45 votes
15 answers
10k views

How to perpetuate the plot-driving riddle without frustrating the reader?

Usually, at the end of a crime, thriller, horror, fantasy, science fiction, or other action genre novel, the identity of the antagonist is uncovered and the riddle that drives the plot is resolved: ...
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41 votes
14 answers
12k views

Do hard to pronounce names break immersion?

I have a character in my book named Jiolluav (with the correct accent, Zholl-you-of or /ʒōl-'yoo-äv/), and I've written my entire "novel" (it's a work in progress) using this name. When I asked a ...
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40 votes
7 answers
3k views

Getting Inside Someone Else's Head

A common problem for novice fiction writers, and one that I feel that I myself haven't quite graduated from, is always writing characters who are like the author. Each character is merely some facet ...
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39 votes
15 answers
20k views

How do I keep the gender of my main character purposely ambiguous?

I'm a newcomer to this community, and have recently started giving serious thought to my first novel. I'm basically working on an idea I had a few years back. It's fiction, has a lot to do with ...
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  • 1,297
39 votes
6 answers
5k views

How do you make characters relatable if they exist in a completely different moral context?

Usually when I read books in ancient-like settings (settings that are either in real ancient civilizations on Earth, or fantasy settings similar to those), there are relatable characters who employ ...
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38 votes
10 answers
11k views

Would readers feel cheated if the villain is successful in convincing the protagonist to change sides?

So I'm writing a story where the main character is sent to kill the main villain. I have the basic world set out before me, and now I focus on story. I was planning out the main storyline and I hit a ...
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37 votes
2 answers
4k views

What is meant by "purposeful, habitual, and gratuitous" actions?

In his "Characters" essay, Samuel R. Delany purports there are three types of actions to characters: "purposeful, habitual, and gratuitous." He also defends that, in a novel, if "a character [is] ...
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  • 493
37 votes
8 answers
5k views

What is the balance between 'stating a problem clearly' and Hemingway's literary iceberg?

At a writer's critique group, one piece of feedback to me was: people didn't understand where I was going until the very end. They suggested stating something explicit at the very beginning so they ...
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36 votes
17 answers
9k views

How can I avoid a predictable plot?

When writing a novel, authors generally don't want the reader to know how things will end. This is especially true of mystery novels, but obviously applies to any creative story. (A few stories show ...
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36 votes
15 answers
13k views

"Real people don't make good fictional characters". Really true?

I came across such statement here on Writing SE and I don't agree much with it. But what I'd like to know is why would it be "impossible" to make good characters using real people. Searching about ...
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35 votes
10 answers
12k views

How to write female characters with agency?

I'm attempting to write a novel, an historical fiction with a small fantasy component (time travel through a portal). The travelers (main characters) are a young couple from the late 23rd Century who ...
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35 votes
10 answers
10k views

My story is written in English, but is set in my home country. What language should I use for the dialogue?

I'm an amateur writer from the Philippines. I am writing a novelette for an international writing contest. My story is written in English, but is set here, in my country, with my POV character being ...
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35 votes
8 answers
8k views

How to *show* a controversial reality without seeming like I'm treating it as acceptable and without stating that this is wrong?

I have a story which has some controversial social problems, and my intention is to just show these issues (for drama), realistically and impartially (i.e. just showing the facts, without imposing any ...
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  • 4,599
35 votes
16 answers
33k views

Is it okay to publish a book at a young age?

I am writing a novel that is called 'Murder' It's about a girl who almost gets murdered but then has to live with the murderers with almost no knowledge that they are the ones that killed her. (...
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35 votes
4 answers
6k views

How do I spot an unintentional promise in my story?

It's commonly said, mainly here on Writing SE and mainly by Mark Baker's answers, that "a story is a promise". The beginning of the story sets the promise and the ending fulfills it. A story that ...
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34 votes
16 answers
17k views

Is no religion a bad thing?

(I believe I've asked about a half dozen questions pertaining to this post-apocalyptic novel, including my "is this story too diverse" question. This sort of pertains to that.) Last night, I thought ...
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  • 8,733
34 votes
11 answers
6k views

How to manage getting depressed by what my main character goes through?

I'm writing a war (sci-fi) novel. The MC dies in the end. It's not as thoroughly depressing as "All Quiet on the Western Front", but Remarque's work is definitely one source of inspiration. Now, ...
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34 votes
5 answers
5k views

How much can a reader remember?

I've been writing some fantasy. Now, inevitably because its a big piece of fantasy, its all very involved with the world, culture, story and general bits. Personally, I'm really enjoying writing it. ...
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  • 4,379
34 votes
10 answers
10k views

Would it be cheating to change the main character's "name" partway through the story?

I'm writing a story written in third-person limited, and the main character has no real name. They simply go by the nickname they're given by the people they hang around at the time, resulting in many ...
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  • 453
33 votes
19 answers
16k views

Writing a Super Intelligent AI

Something I have been thinking about recently is how to write a character who is an artificial intelligence and not have him feel human. Specifically an AI who is designed to think faster and better ...
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33 votes
12 answers
7k views

How to write a sincerely religious protagonist without preaching or affirming or judging their worldview?

I am writing a book in which one of my main characters is a devout Catholic. His struggles with reconciling his religion and his experiences in life are crucial to his character and I'd like to ...
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  • 3,097
32 votes
7 answers
5k views

Writing a love interest for my hero

If I'm going to face down a dragon, Mob boss, evil corporation, or a demon from the 7 circles of hell or dystopian dictator, etc, it's not going to be to rescue my buddy Herbert, or cousin Jimmy. The ...
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32 votes
19 answers
5k views

Fan Fiction: a crutch or a good start?

Writing is writing, but I am not confident enough to take on creating a whole world from scratch. Will writing fanfic or writing in other shared world spaces be beneficial, or will it simply allow me ...
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31 votes
6 answers
8k views

How do you avoid smiling, head-bobbing characters?

Posting on a question about word frequency data, I read an excellent answer from @DPT about avoiding words that become so frequent, they're problematic. In a snippet of that answer, they wrote: But,...
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30 votes
13 answers
8k views

Is there a more modern version of "Acme", as a common, generic company name?

Yes, Acme is an actual company name used by many real companies - bricks, bikes, food, real estate, etc. But more relevant to this point, it has also been used for ages for fictional purposes - not ...
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  • 419
30 votes
14 answers
9k views

Writing in a Christian voice

I'm Jewish. My middle-grade fantasy novel is very Jewish. Most of my characters are either Jews or converts/future converts or people with at least one Jewish grandparent. But some are not. My ...
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30 votes
8 answers
5k views

Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay. Does that apply to me?

Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay I'm not an author. I'm retired. The last time I wrote fiction was probably an essay when I was 10 years old. For years a ...
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30 votes
7 answers
5k views

Do most novels not get published?

If a person writes a novel, grammar alright, decent story, word count, etc. everything okay, Is it a crap shoot for that person to get published? Is it just like the lottery or maybe better chances?...
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30 votes
16 answers
7k views

How do you write boy & girl protagonists without turning them into a love story?

I've played with the idea of a multi-book fantasy story for years, where a female and male protagonists' lives intertwine with one another, the series running from 12-22 years old for them. There ...
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29 votes
11 answers
5k views

Writing diversity

I am writing a military sci-fi novel about an international military force facing aliens. My cast is very diverse: the MC is Yemenite-Israeli, his love interest is German, his room-mates are from ...
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29 votes
9 answers
3k views

Is it smart to reserve one's best ideas or to utilise them early in their writing career?

At the very commencement of my writing "career" (I have virtually zero experience), I have an idea I would like to flesh out and turn into a full story. Being extremely proud of the concepts I have ...
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29 votes
7 answers
16k views

Using the real world in writing

To what extent can you use locations, businesses, etc. from the real world in fiction? I know someone cannot copyright a city, but what about a particular location in the city that's private. Can I ...
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  • 1,295
28 votes
14 answers
14k views

Can a writer joke with the reader without breaking the fourth wall?

Can I, for example, write a whole new storyline inside my novel, and then say something, for example such as: "just kidding"? Or is that breaking the fourth wall?
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28 votes
11 answers
7k views

How to make the villain relatable/human without making the hero seem like a monster for killing him?

I have a story I'm writing which has a villain that, in order to make him more human/developed, I gave him a relatable, tragic and/or disturbing life story, gave him plenty of reasons to be who he is ...
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  • 4,599
27 votes
10 answers
6k views

Does everything have to be accurate?

Do I have to make everything apply to logic, physics, science, etc? The Harry Potter series has been a major hit, and it is nowhere near to being scientifically possible. But I've noticed that I can'...
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27 votes
6 answers
6k views

Is it Ok to make up places if I want the reader to think it’s set in the real world?

What I’m doing is making a story in the medieval times and I wanted to make up a village and have my characters be there and travel around there but do I have to make everything around there in the ...
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  • 1,644
26 votes
16 answers
4k views

How can I write a bigoted narrator while making it clear he is wrong?

Edit: I'm a bit new to the site so I'll be fumbling around trying to respond properly, but thank you all for so many great responses! xxx This is a bit of a touchy one for obvious reasons, but the ...
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  • 929
26 votes
11 answers
8k views

How to prevent "they're falling in love" trope

I have two characters, the male being sort of a jerk, but lightening up later in the story, and the female is...very hateful. But a person who read the first chapter asked me if they were going to get ...
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  • 2,550
26 votes
22 answers
18k views

Can a book be written without an antagonist?

I have had this thought running through my head and wondered what your thoughts were on it. Can a book, a story I should say, be written without an antagonist or antagonistic theme? I have an idea ...
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  • 363
26 votes
7 answers
14k views

Signs of Bad Character Development

When creating a character, what red flags would show me that I'm creating an unbelievable or unsympathetic character? I know that to be believable and sympathetic a character must not lean too much ...
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